This week, US Rep. David Wu (D) of Oregon resigned after facing allegations of an “unwanted sexual encounter” with the 18-year-old daughter of a friend and political fundraiser. Unfortunately, this type of story is hardly scarce news for many Americans.
Though Americans are used to hearing news stories about politicians in scandalous situations, it doesn’t make those stories less upsetting. In Ask Your Target Market’s latest survey, 73.2% of respondents said that Wu’s decision to resign was the right one. Only 8.4% said he shouldn’t have resigned, and 19.4% had no opinion.
The woman who accused Wu in this particular case never filed charges, but the situation was serious enough to warrant an investigation from a House Ethics Committee and several public calls for his resignation. The public, however, is split on what conduct warrants a public official’s resignation. 26% said he or she should resign if involved in any kind of sex scandal, 5.7% said he or she should resign if married and involved in a sex scandal, 31.4% said he or she should step down if the scandal causes a distraction that prevents them from doing their job properly, 33.7% said he or she should resign if they break a law, and only 3.2% said that no politician should ever have to resign because of a sex scandal.
Respondents were also split on which politicians formerly involved in sex scandals should have stepped down. 47.7% think that Anthony Weiner should’ve resigned after sharing lewd photos of himself with women via social networking sites. 31.7% think Mark Sanford should’ve resigned after disappearing for four days to have an affair with a woman in Argentina and misusing taxpayer funds. 39.8% think Eliot Spitzer should’ve resigned after patronizing a prostitution service. 28.5% think Larry Craig should’ve resigned after allegedly soliciting sex acts from an undercover police officer in a men’s restroom. And 50.6% think Bill Clinton should’ve resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct with multiple women including Monica Lewinsky.
Though these scandals continue to make headlines, 52.8% of respondents said that political sex scandals no longer surprise them, and 45% said they distract people from the real issues. 27% said scandals cause them to lose faith in politicians, and 12.5% said they have no impact on their opinion of politicians.
Sex scandals involving politicians have shocked Americans so many times that the stories are no longer shocking. Should we brush off these stories as nothing more than distractions, or should we hold our public servants to a higher standard?